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"Time is Up" by Ali Cavanaugh

"Time is Up" by Ali Cavanaugh

Time is up.

NaNoWriMo has ended.

December 1st has passed.

We survived.

And this, this is the story of survival.

"Covering Shame" by Ali Cavanaugh

Survival begins much uglier than you might think.

It begins with guilt and shame and a desire to fade into the white and the flurry of fragments — of self and storyline and understanding.

The story is a blurred and spinning motion show.  It is circulating cascades of colors and lights and fragments of faces and pieces of periphery.

The story of survival is substantial, but it is not ordered or ordinary.  It is out of order and spinning spinning spinning spinning.

And so, in the face of our own survival, with the force of bed spins weighted at our temples, we begin here: We failed the challenge.  We did not produce 50,000 words in 30 days.

"A Perfect Sway" by Ali Cavanaugh

“A Perfect Sway” by Ali Cavanaugh

We plunged into the starkly cold early winter waters, foraged in the dark depths with our toes, and fought against the current.  Yet we could not hold our breath until the end.  We bubbled to the surface just shy of ourselves, just short of discovering our inner underwater worlds waiting to be exposed, written and read.  We nearly made it and yet we did not.  There are thousands of reasons why we did not make it.  Which would you like to read?  Which would you believe?  Which reason suffices power and force enough to yank us up from submersion in our inner selves just as we are about to discover a new lifeform and bring it to the surface for questioning?

Well it begins here: somehow we lost momentum, our tethers tensed up and flung us away, and our surface selves beckoned our immediate attention.  For me, my dear car was totaled and I was called to a different reckless adventure in search of new mobility.  For Ms. Bernstein, graduate school and cold weather and the indescribable and unexpected arrival of foreignness in another country pulled her outward of her attempt.

And although the story of our survival begins there, it does not end there.  For, though we did not meet our mark, though we did not produce our 50,000 words, though we did not amass a new lifeform — we did not fail.

Failure does not suffice.

It does not suffice our survival — our bravery, our attempt, our experiences.

"I See Your Heart" by Ali Cavanaugh

"I See Your Heart" by Ali Cavanaugh

“It’s not what you thought when you first began it / It’s not going to stop until you wise up / It’s not going to stop so just give up”

We nearly made it, but we did not fail.  I do not call FAIL.  Not just yet.

Although we did not surface with an undiscovered underwater lifeform in arms, we do not defy its existence.  We have circumstantial proof only, but we have enough not to deny the truth of possibility.

Our NaNo novels are non-mathematical postulates, non-logical axioms.  They are truths waiting to be proven.  Words waiting to be counted.  Virtual pages waiting to be given tangible life in ink.  Feral children waiting to be given homes and parents and structures and culture.

We have characters who, alternately, have stories and lives and words and creatures for whom they are responsible.  We have towns that do and do not exist, alternately — for they exist in our storytelling and perhaps even in actual space.  We have much to prove.  We have much yet to do.

I do not call FAIL.  Not for us.

The Internet Meme

FAIL: The Internet Meme

Even if failure is the best word we have available in our present, shared lexicon — failure itself is a story.  In fact, it is an internet meme.  It is a phenomenon of virtual culture.  It is globalized.  It circulates the global in intangible form at unimaginably rapid speeds.  It is shared by thousands and thousands of people, strangers to one another, each day (on different days in the world and in the world’s time).  Even in this photograph, fail is called for an ironic and probably, in all likelihood, unintentional shelving order for a bookstore in NYC (that same bookstore that gave away the free postcards that my Bernstein used to mail me delicious bites when she was an undergraduate student first living in the great wide city).  But even this failure is not failure.  Failure does not suffice this photographed shelf.  Failure does not suffice its irony and subtextual meaning.  Failure does not suffice metaphor.

Our NaNos exist betwixt — betwixt the truth and fail — betwixt success and failure — betwixt sexuality and relationships.

We have not failed.  We have only just begun.  And we shall not let go.

"I hope you never leave my arms" Ali Cavanaugh

"I hope you never leave my arms" Ali Cavanaugh

This entry has made generous use of Ali Cavanaugh’s watercolor frescos.  Please visit her personal blog to preview more of her work, to support her efforts,
and to read more about her biography and aesthetic.  As printed on her website, “[Cavanaugh] is fascinated by the dichotomy of the seen and unseen in the human condition…
body and soul…Cavanaugh’s art brings to light the complexity within contemplation.  Her signature poetic titles are part of this engaging discourse.”
Her frescos have been used in this entry to evoke the inner experience of survival and its complexity (shame and happiness and selfishness and selflessness and inner exploration).
Please visit: Ali Cavanaugh

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Where did I put my marbles this weekend?

For starters, Berns and I signed up for NaNoWriMo, which if you haven’t heard about is probably the most intimidating bout of dedicated self-torture through literary explosion I’ve heard of and knowingly, even excitedly, volunteered for!  NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it takes place in November.  It is a website-launched centralized attack on internal editors and procrastination.  It is a unique time-limited ultra specific challenge.  It is simply, this: 1 month, 50,000 words.  That’s 1666.66667 words per day.  As it ascribes itself, NaNoWriMo is a seat of the pants exercise in output.  Its sole focus is quantity.  Forcing yourself to get it out.  The it in the sentence meaning your novel.  The one, if you’re anything like Berns and I, you probably didn’t even know you had in you.  I am definitely afraid and intimidated — can I really write 6 double-spaced pages a day?  Can I write a uniform story?  Can I sustain cohesion and interest in it after so much concentrated output?  All that aside, Berns and I couldn’t actually be more excited about it.  We are forcing ourselves to get our literary bones in shape, which is something we haven’t disciplined ourselves enough to do consistently or routinely in years.  Sure, back in high school, we were required to write a minimum of ten pages in our journals per week.  But, to be honest, there were many weeks, especially at the beginning, when I didn’t meet that minimum goal.  Even when I was more practiced, I had a few tricks up my sleeve — artwork and experimentation with handwritten or typed font size occasionally bought me wiggle room (I can’t say the same for Bernsie — she was much more consistent and dedicated than me).  But, in this challenge, the marker is actually much more difficult to wiggle around — it can’t really be fooled by font size or other trickery.  It is word count!  Yikes.  I know I, at least, am in for it.  And poor Bernsie is trying to do it in the midst of writing grad school papers.  My suggestion to her was to incorporate elements of her papers into her novel.  And that’s no trickery.  That’s survival.  Besides, that gives her direction and may actually make her output more enlightening to read.  In the least, I can’t see why she shouldn’t put her academic research to creative use.  At least in this format, she has liberty to transform her research into self-propelled fiction.  NaNoWriMo is sure to be a madhouse.  As I described it yesterday, it’s a literary bootstrap puller-upper and we’re gonna need a lot of stick-to-it-ness to, well….., stick to it.  But what it promises to bring us is closer together and closer to a literary community, which is something Bernsie and I haven’t had in a long time (not in the last six years really anyhow).  And, at the end of 30 days, we’ll be in shape.  We’ll have a manuscript.  We’ll have perservered (stuck to it, that is … to be folksy).  We’ll have caught the golden ring.  And in the mean time, our challenge is to sucker as many others into doing it as possible and by sucker I mean persuade, of course, because we need a large and fully functioning literary community to support us in our marble hiding endeavor.  And now all I can think about is what I’m going to write about.  I’m actually a little worried that my story and my main characters are a little too fleshed out to start.  I am sorta entranced by the idea of literary haphazardness and forcing myself to just keep writing and making unimaginable leaps.  To not plan it all out ahead of time so that I am forced to create and draw connections and leap forward in unknown arcs all in the moment.  And I know just how much that excites Rachel B as well.  So, friends, I warn that through this November process we may not have much time to write or report here since we’ll be saving up our literary output for our novels, but rest assured that you will be hearing from us!  You will be able to track our progress through our blog via handy NaNo (our cutesy shortenin’) widgets!

My Progress (roaringaurora):

Rachel Bernstein’s Progress (either0r):

A Little Friendly jetset Competition:

To give you an idea of just how difficult NaNoWriMo may be, this post (including its title and this lil’ write-up) is only 893 words! And that’s 773 words fewer than my daily NaNo quota!

It would be enough craziness abounding had I just assigned myself one challenge in November, but alas! I have completely lost all my precious marbles.  I am now trying to discipline myself to not only write six pages a day routinely (three in the mornings and three at night), but also to exercise a minimum of three times per week!  I began today with 20 minutes of pilates and 20 minutes of insane upper body cardio/weight-training to work on my arms, shoulders, and core… (the parts of myself I am admittedly most self-conscious about and generally displeased with).  So… I’ll keep you posted on my progress toward those goals as well!  No I’m not trying to lose weight.  I am trying to get in shape.  That’s the theme for November… let’s hope they’re aren’t any viscious hidden turkeys to gobble my goals up!

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We are, between us, the following:

One world traveler/grad-student-to-be/post-Brookylnite/post-post-Baltimorean/canvas shoe wearer/fledgling orthalogian/daily consumer of Americanized Mexican food

One domestic cat-lady-in-waiting/psychiatric rehabilitation specialist/counselor/fledgling harpist/wannabe philatelist/incredibly redundant wordsmith/potential theology student

We are both cheeky. And avid coffee swindlers. And, of course, obsessive list-makers.

Once in a seminar/training, titled “Therapeutic Crisis Intervention: The Cornell Model,” I was asked about my own coping skills and interventions. What do I do to relieve stress and self-soothe? I write lists. A completely original/novel yet odd answer replied the trainer.

Why do we write lists? It’s a tradition began in our freshman years of high school (and, incidentally, our first year of friendship). These are not to-do lists. We write lists because we are process-oriented people and obsessive cataloguers of information/data, including personal information. The process is self-evaluation, or: when together, mutual collaborative evaluation. We make most lists in an informal tripartite reflective structure with the following categories: Good, Bad, and the ever-fluctuating Questionable.

So, even now, as we prepare for the departure of one half of our homo-social life partnership (Rachel) to the Czech Republic, we are engaging the process of reflection through list-making. When we planned our last stateside time together, there was a tacit understanding that list-making would/should commence. Only now, and for the near-first time (we did very briefly blog together — but it was often far too listy and did not have enough textual content), we are publishing our lists online. Names will be changed to protect the innocent and, the more likely of the two, the not-so-innocent (and, most importantly, ourselves). Moreover, these lists will be more prosaic as they are meant to document our intercontinental experiences in a variety of contextual ways, but most simply in the ultra-textual Internet.

So, here it starts.

Good:
Us.
Johnny Depp.
Taco Bell. (The first 3 are historic inclusions, and required. By our own rules.)
Today (23/7/08 — Rachel writes the date this way for practice. April writes it this way because it makes sense — like Russian nesting dolls).
Moving on — taking the next BIG STEP. (No more baby-steppin’!)
Commitment to our new blog!
2008 so far!
Colby Canada (Ape swoons!) and mustaches.
Escape from the rats (also known and heard as kangaroos on rollerskates).
Sweet summer romances.
Nostalgic mixes.
Baltimore music scene (at present).
H&M T-Shirts — casual. cheap. perfect-fit.
Good-fitting jeans — Levi’s and J-Crew.
Canvas slip-on shoes.
The unexplainable energy sweet romances gives you that somehow transforms your body and the way you feel about yourself. When someone else sees you as a beautiful, it is because you finally are beautiful — there is an energy that surrounds and encompasses you. You are more forgiving of yourself and the way you look.

Questionable
Going home with co-workers.
Limited choice of Baltimore music venues.
Friendship with England.
5 cats:1 house ratio.
Job status.
Grad school (Where? When? How!)
Where April will be this time next year? Is Austin the next big thing? Chicago?
Time-limited relationships – can you put a time-limit on feelings?
Canvas shoe tan-lines.
Packing up your LIFE in 2 suitcases or less – how to trim the fat and stick to the essentials?
Ape wonders about writing a children’s novel…
Being 5 pounds away from your ideal weight.

Bad
Solo birthdays (birthdays apart from our homo-social life partners).
Drifting cat odors (gross!).
Cat incest (these species don’t have taboos!).
Sick + Tired.
Car expenses… + repairs (Gemma the Jetta is 10 after all).
Rach has no wheels.
Bone spurs.
Rach has no health insurance and Ape’s health insurance doesn’t believe in women’s reproductive health!
Feeling creepy-crawly this summer.
Not having enough time together!
Feeling skinny but having stretch marks.

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